Anxiety: My Foe, My Friend

Without warning, you suddenly feel it come over your body and the familiar dread drapes down upon you. Your chest feels like someone is sitting on it – or worse yet, squeezing it. You notice that you’re not breathing normally; your breaths become quick, and they feel impossible to slow. Everything is racing through your mind so fast that even processing what the person is saying next to you is a challenge. It feels like disaster is coming, but you don’t have the words to communicate what that is. Your entire body feels off balance. You try to hide how much your body is shaking.

One minute you are going about your day, and the next you’re here... in an internal war that you hope no one sees.

You’re having a panic attack, but you don’t know it. All you know is that you are suffering, and you desperately want it to stop.

. . . . .

I know these symptoms too well. There was a time in my life where I was experiencing panic attacks on a regular basis, but I thought it was just anxiety. I didn’t know the difference at the time. While anxiety and panic attacks often mirror one another in symptoms, a panic attack is often more severe and can occur without a trigger, while an anxiety attack is often in response to a stimulus or perceived threat.

Maybe you resonate with the experience described here. Maybe you’ve felt these symptoms and have no idea where they’re coming from or how to even begin to make them go away. Maybe you think you know exactly what’s making you anxious but you feel helpless to cope with the crippling anxiety you experience all too often. Anxiety is your foe, your enemy. The battle never seems to end.

. . . . .

It’s important to note that it’s impossible to be rid of all anxiety. Some anxiety can even be good and act like a protective friend. For example, perhaps as you’re sitting down for dinner, you wonder, “Did I shut off the stove?” It’s the anxiety and discomfort that moves you to check the stove. Sure enough, it’s on! Anxiety was your friend that saved you from what could have been an extremely costly mistake.

For those with clinical anxiety, the discomfort doesn’t stop when you check the stove, so to speak. It wraps itself around you and sneaks into the crevices of your life. For some, when anxiety goes unchecked, one day you wake up and realize that you feel more anxious than not. Anxiety has disrupted your life to the point that you can’t keep going the way you are. A lot of people end up in a counseling office right about then – feeling helpless and maybe hopeless.

The good news is, there is hope. Coming from someone who ended up in a counseling office right about that time, there is always, always hope for the hurting.
. . . . .

There are tools you can put into practice to start experiencing relief from the symptoms of anxiety. These tools require practice, effort, and consistency. If it took time for you to develop severe anxiety, it would follow that it can take time to learn something new to relieve the anxiety.

So, what can be done today to help relieve the pain of anxiety?

Here are four tools you can start right now:

1. Square Breathing
Breathe in for four seconds, hold for four seconds, release for four seconds. Repeat. This tool is to be used not just when you’re noticing that you’re starting to feel anxious, but throughout the day as well. It’s like a muscle you need to work out so that when anxiety rises, your body is ready to put to use what it has practiced.

 2. Grounding
Grounding techniques help you to stay in the present. While anxiety takes you where you’re not, grounding helps you to remember where you are. When you start to first notice that anxiety is rising, pause. Take a deep breath. List out five things you see around you, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. Take your time with this. Slow down. Notice what’s going on around you.

3. Going for a Walk
Oftentimes simply moving from the setting you’re in to a different one can reduce anxiety. Take five minutes and go for a walk while focusing on slowing your breathing.

4. Speaking Truth
Our minds are a powerful tool. What you dwell on is what you will live out. Meditating on what is true is particularly important to practice daily, not just when you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed. When you begin to feel anxious, ask yourself: “Is there any evidence for this? Am I focusing only on what is negative and disqualifying anything that is positive? Am I jumping to conclusions?” If there isn’t any evidence for it, it’s a thought that needs to be thrown out and replaced with what is true.

Keep a notecard with you of Scripture or a quote that encourages and grounds you. Memorize it. Read it. Say it out loud. Remind yourself that just because you think or feel something doesn’t make it true.

. . . . .

In therapy we learn tools to deal with anxiety, but we also deal with the source of anxiety. We must uncover what led to the pain you are currently walking in. This may mean exploring your family of origin or history to understand what experiences or beliefs still affect you today. We cannot change what we don’t first acknowledge happened. While this can be difficult, it can also be freeing to face and understand our history so that we can enjoy our present.

If you have found yourself suffering from anxiety and feel like there isn’t a way out, take heart. You’re not alone, and there is help to be found. Working with people who struggle with anxiety is what I specialize in, and I would consider it a privilege to help you find healing. If you are interested in signing up for a session with me or another therapist, please contact our office.
Nicole specializes in treating couples with relationship concerns, and adults and teenagers who struggle with anxiety, trauma, abuse, self-harm, self-esteem, depression, and grief.

Nicole uses an eclectic and creative approach to therapy, blending Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with more expressive forms of therapy, such as art therapy and walking outdoor sessions. By offering multiple therapeutic mediums of professional counseling services, Nicole aims to help clients reach their goals by understanding and meeting each person's individual needs

For specific questions email Nicole at 
[email protected].
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Your ALCS Team

Welcome to the Abundant Life Blog, where we answer common questions about counseling and support you and your family on the journey to deeper relationships and a joyful life. Competent care informed by Christian faith for individuals, couples, and families.

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